Dick Erickson, a 1958 graduate of
Pelican Rapids High School, paddling the Pelican River over Labor Day
weekend—much as he did
62 years ago.
Dick and Betty Erickson, left, with Andrew Johnson of the Pelican Paddle Company at Riverview Place. Erickson booked a kayak trek with Johnson, to relive part of his 1958 canoe trip on the Pelican River.

Erickson brothers, Dick and Oren, participated in Centennial canoe derby on Pelican River over six decades ago 

A Labor Day weekend trek on the Pelican River was an opportunity for Dick Erickson to relive an experience from 62 years ago. 

In 1958, Erickson took part in a portion of the mile Minnesota Centennial canoe derby. Dick (Richard) and his older brother Oren paddled from Detroit Lakes and through Pelican Rapids. 

It was quite a workout, crossing four big lakes—with no current to provide a boost to the paddlers, noted Dick. Temperatures ranged up to 103 degrees. 

It was something of a “reunion voyage” for Dick, who booked a kayak trip with the Pelican Paddle Company, at Riverview Place. 

The pace was considerably more leisurely for his 2020 adventure. The temperatures were moderate when Dick paddled the Prairie Lake to Pelican stretch on Sept. 5 of Labor Day weekend.

Dick was just out of high school, graduating from Pelican Rapids High School in spring of 1958. (His wife, Betty (Flatin) was also a 1958 Pelican graduate.)

His partner for the trip was brother Oren, a 1955 Pelican grad. The boys grew up on a dairy and turkey farm north of Pelican Rapids, in the Prairie Lake-Pelican River area. 

Dick Erickson went on to a four year stint in the Navy, and another 30 years with the federal government, and the Department of the Interior. Sixteen of those years were in Alaska, where he had the opportunity to canoe the Yukon River on three seperate occasions, so he has been a lifelong canoe enthusiast. 

He retired about 24 years ago, to Fergus Falls. 

Erickson is one of many who have “re-connected” with the Pelican River this summer. 

Outfitter Andrew Johnson, of the Pelican Paddle Company, said that the coronavirus pandemic has likely been a factor in a steady schedule of kayak customers. Also, the Paddle Company’s kayak opportunities are becoming more widely known. 

“I think it’s the fact that we’ve been at it for six years, and word is getting around— plus partly COVID,” said Johnson. Recreation opportunities like kayaking, and notably golf as well, have held up fairly well during the socially distanced demands of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Though there are no official numbers yet, it appears that state parks—including Maplewood, just east of Pelican–are experiencing steady visitation during the pandemic. 

As long as the weather is coopertive, Johnson said he will continue booking kayak trips well into the autumn.